As peak pest season rolls around and your home and yard are under siege by tiny flying insects, you might be tempted to chalk up your bug battles to be against gnats. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Did you know that gnats aren’t actually a type of pest? In fact, the term “gnat” encompasses a variety of annoying species that take over the outdoors by swarm every spring and summer.
Though these pests seem impossible to get rid of, there is hope. However, dealing with each of these different species requires different pest prevention and control tactics. As experts in mosquito and gnat control, we are breaking down everything you need to know about “gnats” so that you can identify the invader and implement the best pest management strategies!
Gnat Facts 101: Know Your Enemy
What Are Gnats?
“Gnat” is a term used to describe many species of tiny flying insects in the suborder Nematocera. This loose descriptive category includes both biting and non-biting insects, including drain flies, black flies, midges, fungus gnats, no-see-ums, and fruit flies. Typically, these insects are small in size but have a tendency to swarm into large “clouds” especially during dusk and dawn.
While gnats have a reputation for their annoying bites, some gnats are actually not aggressive toward humans. “Biting” gnats consist of species with females who need blood to be able to breed, while “eye” gnats tend to swarm around the face, especially the eyes and ears due to the carbon dioxide (CO2) you emit when you breathe. Eye gnats, while a nuisance, don’t bite. Though they are generally harmless, either type of gnat is unpleasant, to say the least. To help you know your tiny enemies better, here are a few species of “gnats” that are commonly found in the South.
Types of Gnats Commonly Found in the Southeast
Fungus gnats are dark, winged insects that are similar in appearance to mosquitoes, however, they are much smaller in size; they typically only grow to be 2 to 8 millimeters in length. Fungus gnats are dark gray or black in color with long legs and antennae, with a distinctive y-shaped pattern on their wings. These are considered to be eye gnats, as they tend to swarm, however, they do not bite animals or humans.
While they are beneficial to decomposition, fungus gnats feed on the organic matter found in soil and the larvae can damage the roots and stunt the development of the plants. Though typically found in the soil, fungus gnats are attracted to light and can be drawn towards your home in the evening by outdoor lights. The key to keeping fungus gnats from crashing your next outdoor outing is the location and removal of eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Among the pests on this list, drain flies are some of the larger flies, with mature adults growing up to ¼ of an inch long. They are typically brown or black in color and densely covered with tiny hairs that give them a fuzzy appearance. Drain flies are frequently mistaken for small moths because their wings are held over the body when resting. Hence, the nickname the “moth fly”. Though they have wings, they are very weak fliers and look as if they are jumping.
As the name suggests, they breed and lay their eggs in standing water – with a favorite nesting place being the slimy residue inside bathroom and kitchen sink pipes. If you do notice these pests inside your home, it’s a safe bet that one of your drainpipes is clogged. That said, one of the best ways to prevent and treat an infestation of drain flies to keep your pipes running clean and clear.
No-see-ums, biting gnats, biting midges, sand flies, there are many different names for this pest. Believe it or not, this is actually the common vernacular for the Ceratopogonidae family of small flies. Whatever you want to call them, you don’t want to mess with these pests. They are tiny biters that you can’t see coming, but you can feel. And it’s that time of year again.
While the itchy, swollen bites they leave are no fun, no-see-ums don’t pass around dangerous diseases such as West Nile or Zika like mosquitoes can. Males generally feed on nectar and pollen, it’s the females of the species that need blood to produce their eggs. These eggs are usually laid in bodies of standing water, which is why you frequently see them swarming lakeside, or near marshes, ponds, and pools.
If you have ever forgotten fresh produce on your kitchen countertop for a few weeks, you surely have seen these pests flying around. Fruit flies are one of the most common household pests that feed on decomposing fruits and vegetables, hence the name, however, they also breed in decaying meat, spilled soda, and alcohol. These flies have only one requirement for breeding; there must be a moist layer of fermenting material.
Because they are low maintenance, they can quickly become an issue. A female can lay up to 500 eggs, which can hatch in as little as 30 hours. That means a big problem very quickly. Not to mention, these flies can live inside for up to a month and are usually active indoors year-round. Although fruit flies are mostly harmless, they can contaminate food with bacteria, and they are a nuisance to live with.
How Do I Prevent Gnats?
Preventing gnats is no easy task, however, there are some steps that you can take to minimize their presence in your yard and, by extension, your home.
● Eliminate sources of standing water such as pet bowls, plant containers, and birdbaths.
● Direct run-off water away from your home.
● Water your plants less frequently to allow the soil to dry out.
● Check new plants before bringing them inside.
● Clear clogged gutters and drains.
● Seal off any gaps, cracks, or entry points around your home’s exterior.
● Make sure window and door screens are intact.
● Regularly dispose of waste and recycling, cleaning out the sealed containers afterward.
● Keep larger trash bins away from the home, if possible.
● Store perishable items and fresh produce in the refrigerator.
● Regularly treat bathroom and kitchen sinks and drains.
● Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas with higher moisture levels regularly.
How Do I Get Rid of Gnats?
Many homeowners struggle with eliminating gnats because these pests reproduce at such a significant rate. Oftentimes, DIY pest control methods only target the existing pest population, without accounting for the next generation. If you have a gnat problem, it’s best to leave it to professional gnat and mosquito exterminators!
At Palmetto Mosquito Control, we can help you identify these flying pests as well as problem areas to give a proper diagnosis of the situation. After consulting with you, our trusted gnat and mosquito exterminators work to implement integrated pest management strategies that account for each specific pest’s behaviors and life cycle.
Don’t wait until you have a pest problem on your hands… contact the mosquito and gnat control specialists at Palmetto Mosquito today for a free pest inspection!